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Dear Workforce How Do You Improve Communication Between Department Heads

To be truly effective and lasting, any possible solution will need to contain both change management and strategic communication components.
January 21, 2001
Related Topics: Dear Workforce

   Ihave been asked to submit ideas on how to improve and develop communicationsand working relationships between department heads. Our city manager reallywants problems in the city solved (i.e. crime, rundown properties, juveniledelinquency, traffic congestion, accident rates, etc) by using allresources and experiences of his management staff.

   However,many of us are separated by distance and job functionssuch as being in different buildings, little day-to-daycontact and working together. As a result, we do not communicateor work well together. In my opinion, after we got voice mailand e-mail, the communication got worse and professionalrelationships ceased. 

    The City Manager is looking to bring his entiremanagement staff together so that we can accomplish projects and services moreeffectively and efficiently. Any ideas you may have would begreatly appreciated.

-Deborah, New York

A Dear Deborah:

   To be truly effective and lasting, any possiblesolution will need to contain both change management and strategic communicationcomponents.

   The management teammust first be convinced that working together is the only way to achieve thegoals set by the City Manager. This could be achieved by conducting teambuildingmeetings to build respect and camaraderie, targeted focus groups to determinetheir exact concerns (compared to the City Manager’s perceptions) andbrainstorming sessions to elicit suggestions from the team.

    Of course, if distance is truly a concern,Webcasting is a viable alternative to in-person meetings. It has been Unifi’sexperience that if employees are involved in a decision process from thebeginning, they are more likely to adopt the solution as their own. In addition,the City Manager may want to consider adding communications as a measurement inthe management team’s performance reviews.

    Another approach is to involve all members ofthe management team in a “SWAT team,” which could be called upon to addressimmediate concerns. By rotating the membership, each member of the managementteam will have direct interaction with the other - building rapport and sharingresources and experiences.

    The CityManager’s Office may want to implement a technical solution in the form of anon-line “global workplace” or “team room.” Similar to a chat room, ateam room enables all participants to share ideas in real time and to provideinput to each other. Many companies and municipalities use this technology toovercome the restraints of distance and to create a resource for “bestpractices.”

    The City Manager could also coordinate withother cities to share similar information via this on-line vehicle. Whilebuilding and implementing a full-blown intranet site might also be a solution, ateam room is simpler to create and maintain and it is more accessible to thosewho are not fully comfortable with this sort of e-communication solution.

SOURCE:Joe Donner, director, PricewaterhouseCoopers' Unifi Network communicationspractice, Teaneck, NJ.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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